Cold Saddle

Well, folks, its time. Its time to climb back onto this cold saddle and get to gettin' once more. I don't have anything fancy or special to say today, just forcing myself to start writing on my personal blog again. The last post on here led to a small run writing for The Simply Beloved thus, its been a while for me here. 

If you haven't had a chance to read any work of mine at TSB, here are a couple links to articles I'm particularly proud of.

The Anointed You

The Promise of Freedom

Summer Body Talk

Otherwise, I'll see you back here real soon.


Carly Calmes the First



Good (Enough) Friday

As most of you know, yesterday was Good Friday. Its the day in which Christians remember the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, the slaughtered Lamb of God. This week, however, I re-named it "Good Enough Friday." Intrigued? Keep reading. Lent is one of those seasons that is relatively new for me. I came to faith when I was 14 years old through the ministry of Young Life, a para-church organization, and attended an Evangelical church for years and years until joining Risen Church in Santa Monica. I had never even heard of Lent before attending Risen, but for the past few years I have started to practice it. I refuse to turn it into a Holy diet, but instead have found myself practicing things I KNOW will lead me to lean on the Lord and remind me of my depravity in a way that turns me toward His grace. I typically choose to give something up as well as taking a new habit on.

About 40 days ago, around midnight on the eve of Lent I chose what I'd give up and take on.  It was something unique and I thought it'd bring me closer to God- which it should have. But when one day of failing turned to one week of failing; and one week of failing turned into a full month, it lead me to... well, the opposite.

I didn't really give up what I had told myself I would, and I failed to read my daily Lent devotion like I promised. Each morning that I went to read, shame crept in and it pushed me further and further from Him.

Oh, then this week-The crown of the Lenten season. This was Holy week.

Each day of intended celebration turned into buckets of frustration with myself.

"I'll finish the reading before Palm Sunday!" I said. Nope.

"I'll get it done before Maundy Thursday!" Nope.

"If I just do the last few readings before Good Friday, I'll be prepared in my heart to really experience it" Not even close.

And little by little, I let these perceived shortcomings wedge themselves between God and I, as if He was counting my failures along with me.

Then, last night, it hit me. I've totally missed it. 

I recently heard my dear friend John May Jr. preach a message on the book of Galatians. Paul, the writer of said book, found himself pleading with the people of Galatia to repent of the way that they hadn't lived into the freedom that Christ had given them. These Christians had found themselves set free, totally forgiven by grace, but slowly failing to trust that grace was enough.  They panicked, and little by little, they made a new law. A new religion. A new "Good Enough" to achieve that didn't come from God at all.

In his message, Johnny reminded me of Galatians  2:20-21 which reads "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

There's nothing inherently wrong with practicing the season of Lent. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to attend a Good Friday service. However, the minute the failure to practice these rituals somehow convinces us that we ARE failures, and that God is disappointed in our performance just like we are, we have made a new law, and "if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

Maybe thats the whole point of this Lenten season for me.

Maybe the whole point is to be able to SERIOUSLY CELEBRATE the fact that I absolutely failed at everything I set out to do, but it changed NOTHING between God and I. I bit the big one, and He literally couldn't love me more than He does right now. He's still crazy about my wayward guts.

Because of the events we celebrate this week, His grace is more than enough for me despite my failure to celebrate that grace in the way that I wanted to.

Maybe the best part of Good Friday (the Good-est part?) is that I absolutely don't have to be Good Enough anymore.

In fact, I think from now on in my little heart, I'll call it "Good Enough Friday", to remind me that I'll never be,  but I am all at once. He has made it so, by His sacrifice.

Hallelujah, What a Savior!



Carly Escoto Calmes the First

Blanca: A lesson in giving

Some odd amount of months ago, I started joining two of my close friends, Leah and Bekah for lunch every Tuesday at El Cholo in Santa Monica. Its on the same block as the church we all work at, and they have a sweet Tuesday margarita happy hour. The three of us have kept the tradition alive for some time and are often joined by other friends who have the luxury of taking Tuesday afternoons to hang out with us and gobble up guacamole. By the time I joined, the girls had already nabbed Blanca as our favorite server. Blanca is an incredibly kind woman, probably in her 50s or so, who we have all fallen in love with. We sit in her section every Tuesday for lunch, and she is undoubtedly El Cholo's finest.

Week in and week out, we are greeted with "Hola Senoritas!" and served whole heartedly by Blanca. She knows our orders, she goes above and beyond, and she has become a friend.

About two months ago we were enjoying our Tuesday tradition when half way through the meal our server changed. We didn't think much of it until the following week when we were reunited with Blanca. She caught us up and told us how, while she was serving the previous week, she had a bad fall in the kitchen at the restaurant and had injured her back. She told us, with tears in her eyes, that she was in a lot of pain and was having trouble working with the pain but, couldn't afford to take time off since she supported her son.

During the following weeks, we'd ask her about her back and get updates on how her physical therapy was going. After each time she'd share, our hearts would sink. This woman takes the bus across L.A. to support her family by working on her feet, serving folks like us at this Mexican restaurant, and she's always in pain because she just can't get a break.

As we were finishing up lunch one day I said to my friends "Gosh I wish I were rich!".  I don't typically think or say things of that nature but we all nodded in agreement, imagining what it would be like if we could drop a few thousand dollars in her lap and give her a month off, or if we could offer to pay for her physical therapy. It would be so nice to have the means to REALLY knock someone's socks off and provide for them. We all wanted to be able to do something significant to make things better for her but, rendered ourselves incapable due to the fact that all of us work for the church and aren't exactly rolling in the dough.

As Christmas time approached I thought that we should do something about it. I sent out an email to our little cluster of friends with the idea to give her a "Christmas Bonus" of whatever we could all afford to pitch in to bless her. Even if it wasn't much, it felt wrong to not TRY.

So we gathered up the dollars that each of us could afford to spare during the often financially stressful Christmas season, and gathered it up into a Christmas card for our Blanca. We got a group together to head into the restaurant on Tuesday as usual.  This Tuesday in particular, we had a large group and we couldn't actually fit at any tables in her section.


Oh well. We were set to pass on the gift anyway.

As the meal went on Blanca finally came around to say hello. She greeted us warmly as usual and took the time to make sure she wished us a "Merry Christmas". I clenched the envelope in my hand and waited for the right moment to say "Actually,Blanca, we have something for you. Merry Christmas".

Blanca didn't even know that it was more than a card and she was already in tears. She thanked us and told us she loved us; that we were her family. There wasn't a dry eye in the house as we all realized that she was THAT moved by... just a Christmas card?  Oh boy, who knew what she was going to do when she saw the pile of cash inside!

As our Pastor and friend Trevor came back from taking his kids to the bathroom, he asked "Have you seen Blanca yet?" . We said "No, why?". He told us she was around the corner just sobbing with the card in her hand.

All of us were a little nervous to see her. Sometimes its hard to give gifts isn't it? I hate seeing people open gifts I've given them for some reason, and we also didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable or like we were patting ourselves on the back. I was hoping to give her the card and bounce but, there she was, turning the corner heading straight towards us.

She approached Leah, Bekah and I with tears running down her face and we all started to cry, too. She hugged each of us for an extended period of time and humbled each of us with her gratitude.

Blanca said "You girls are my angels. I've always believed in God but, now I KNOW more than ever that He's real." and kissed us all on our tear-stained cheeks.

It was beautiful and such a special moment to know that she felt loved not only by us, but by God.  What was especially humbling about it was that the money ended up just being a few hundred dollars.  Just weeks earlier I had hesitated to give to her because I don't have thousands of dollars at my disposal.

But God didn't need thousands of dollars. All he needed was the willingness to share what we DID have to give, and He multiplied the effects of it.

Moral of the story: Don't refrain from giving because you don't feel like you have enough to give. Give what you can in faith, and watch God make it enough. 

Until Next Time, 

Carly Calmes the First

Guilt Free



I want to write a million blogs about the bits and pieces of freedom that I've found from self-loathing. I really do.

Most of these urges rise up in moments where I notice something that I used to buy into that I just don't anymore. It happens when I find myself shockingly unaffected by things that used to absolutely BURY me.

One of these things? Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving; a holiday mostly centered around feasting, has left me feeling all kinds of conflicted and stressed in the past.

This Thursday, in between chopping, prepping and sipping on Mac N Jacks African Amber ( my favorite beer in the world, only available in Washington) I checked my instagram feed.  I found countless examples of people posting photos of either working out, or of their food with tags heavy with tones of... guilt. Those who worked out posted about how relieved they were that they could eat their Thanksgiving feasts without guilt. Those who were posting about the meal hash-tagged all kinds of non-sense that let you know that they were eating each bite with their tails in-between their legs.


As most of you know, this year I committed to allowing God to transform and heal my relationship with myself. This meant tossing out all kinds of habits that furthered feelings of shame about who I am, and how I'm shaped.

Let me just tell you, God has done the miraculous in this area of my life. I have no idea how much I weigh, or how many calories go in and out each day.  I know that my body has fluctuated a lot but, as I stand today, I love myself. I'm making good friends with myself. I'm learning to dispense more grace to myself than I've ever felt like I deserved because there's a God who has an unending supply of it for me, and I call Him Lord.

So when I see this nonsense, my first instinct is to fight back and shout "NO! You shouldn't be feeling guilty regardless! What you eat is not tied to your worth. beauty or identity!" However,  I know that's not the way to fight this battle.

People don't tend to find transformation after someone posts a really insightful comment on a social media forum.

These things take time. They take time, and they take the desire to be free.

This year, as I sat back with all my pent up heartache at the ways those dear to me carry guilt when they eat, constantly calculating how much they'll have to work out to "burn off" or "earn" their food; I also felt peace flood my heart.

Yes, I see years ahead of me full of tough conversations with beautiful women in my life. Yes, I find myself downright angry at the way they see themselves and the way they feel shame for enjoying food.

But now that I've tasted it, I look forward to years of freedom in my own life.

I fought really hard this year to not serve that nasty voice inside of me that, when my jeans got tight and I ate one too many appetizers, tried to convince me that until I worked it off, I was disgusting or undeserving.

I worked really really hard to listen only to what my Heavenly Father says about me and let those insights anchor my identity.

Do I want to treat myself well by staying healthy and active, nourishing my body with good, whole food? Yes! Absolutely!

Do I think that there's value in fitness and learning the art of self control and balance?


But, when I fail? Grace.

When I gain? Grace.

When I change and shift? Grace. 

& This was the goal. I didn't want to be careless, and treat myself like crap.  I wanted to be so rooted in Christ's love for me that no matter WHAT I looked like, no matter how I vacillated, the way I felt about myself didn't change.

And honestly?

I think I'm finding myself  there.

I've seen food labels recently that read "Guilt-Free". One of my favorite things about this new season of learning for me is that...Every item of food could have that label on it for me. I in no way support over-indulging in all the buttery holiday goodness but, ah,  to eat a slice of my mother in law's unbelievable pecan pie-Guilt free? Without any less sugar or butter in there than just means I can savor each bite of my piece with gratitude and joy, not weighed down by how many crunches I'll have to do to work off this shame.

The shame isn't there! Not because I don't think health is important, but because my identity and worth are no longer in my size or my daily calorie count.

Its good. Its so good that every time I feel that voice start to bubble up beneath the surface, I fight HARD to choose the voice of grace and love. I fight hard in the face of a culture that one million times a day tries to convince me to do whatever it takes to fit a mold marked by perfectionism.

I hope one day that all the beauties in my life are set free, too. But I think the best way to invite them there is to live it out, myself.

So cheers, to a heart full of Thanksgiving, and a life that is surprisingly guilt-free by grace, alone.

Until Next Time, 

Carly Calmes the First


I just turned 27. In light of a new year ahead of me, I thought I'd recap some of the nuggets  that I've picked up, most of which I've learned the hard way,  from the year behind me.  ( In chronological order!)

1) Do what you can to make peace

Ok, so maybe starting off this way is a tad grim but, I spent the first day of this past year, my 26th birthday, at a funeral, and it was rather sobering. This old friend of mine who I celebrated that day is someone who, in years past, I lost touch with due to some brokenness in relationship and the lack of desire to dive back into the mess and make things right.

On the day of his funeral, I stood with a large group of folks who had also lost touch with him.  I think all of us wondered what it would be like if things had been different. I spent my birthday singing karaoke with his closest friends and family, because it was his favorite thing to do for fun.  Suddenly, whatever drama there was disintegrated  and we celebrated together. It was beautiful, but really... deeply sad.  A few months earlier a lot of us got to hug him and say we loved him when he came and visited church, and that day I was rather grateful I had that chance before he was gone.


    I will say, that sometimes certain relationships are best kept with some separation. I do think that there are folks who are damaging to your life and I have people in my life who I have made the decision to break away from and its quite painful.  Forgive them. Forgive them and make sure there's as much peace as possible in the context of your particular relationship. It doesn't mean you have to let them into your inner circle but, at least let the last words be kind and do what you have to do to know in your own heart that you did what you could to make peace. 

 2)  Listen to yourself- sometimes pushing yourself can be damaging.

Last November I ran a half marathon. I chose to do it not because I wanted to, but because I thought it would make me skinny. I ran another half a few years back and when I was training I was essentially starving myself; eating nothing but rice, beans and veggies. So, I got pretty thin.  I went into that race feeling good about my body and I finished the race with my chin up. I actually finished this last race faster than I did the first, but I was thinking about the size of my body the entire time I trained and with every step of every mile. I finished feeling completely discouraged.  I finished with a deep disgust with myself and it was painful. Not the kind of painful that leads to some victory, either.

I decided at that point that I would do my best to listen to myself, and to treat myself with kindness. This means that I decided that I wouldn't force myself to do things with impure motives. Its a bit of  dance but, I have chosen not to physically push myself because of negative feelings about my body. I WILL push myself because of positive feelings about my body, though. I will push myself when I'm grateful to be healthy and be able to run and dance and I will celebrate this gift by taking care of it.

Sometimes taking care of it means resting it, and taking care of my heart and mind. Sometimes it means being still and letting God care for me first.

3) Get healing now

Look, I've been in and out of therapy for a lot of my life. However vulnerable it is to get help, I am a firm believer in the benefits of getting help from the right therapist, recovery group, prayer counselor, mentor... Whatever it takes.

For whatever your wounds are, don't wait. Whether it was my own healing with the way I see myself, or a friend's healing who waited until a few years into marriage to get help, or other friends who don't want it but desperately need it... I've seen this year that this is the time. Today is the day.

Because when I stop and think about it, I realize I don't want to be 50 and still letting anxiety swallow me whole, I don't want to be 60, telling myself I'm living into who God has created me to be all the while hating myself and hating the body I'm in, I don't want to be 28 and still experiencing wounds I can't put my finger on because I'm too embarrassed to ask someone to take my hand and help me out of the darkness.

4) Say yes to the gifts you've been given

Over the past year I have been meeting with a life coach/mentor named Jim. Jim is a Pastor, worship leader and by profession, is a Life Coach who specializes in career and calling- how they might intertwine and how to chase after the latter while operating in the former.

When he and I started meeting,  I told him about the way writing and performing my own music crept into my life. I told him story after story of the doors that God had opened rather miraculously. I would talk about it and repeatedly say things like "Yeahh... its kind of strange... Ehh then this, whatever ".

One day he said "STOP! Stop downplaying the things that God is doing! Stop calling it weird like its a BAD thing!  Unusual? Sure, its unusual, but its clear that God's hand is on it and that YOU ARE TALENTED and wanted! So stop cutting it down. Maybe take a step back and realize that he has been CLEAR with you, and that maybe its because you actually have something special to offer." 

At that moment something started to change in me.

I'm not sure what it was exactly but, I began to realize that dodging my giftedness isn't humble, its proud.

I used to think that accepting and believing that I'm talented was to say "I'm better than everyone else" and that if I were to really get out there and do what I feel called to do, I needed to be the best at it otherwise I'd be asking for humiliation.  But, now I see that rejecting it is wasting it. Its wasting the time I'm given in life because for some reason, I was created to sing and when I do, not only does it please God but, it allows Him to work through me as I have been designed to be worked through.

If God has given you something, favor in any way, gifts, callings, etc... They aren't for you to judge. They aren't even for you! They're for Him. They're for some purpose you may never know but rejecting them is shutting the door on God.  Its been good to say YES to them for me. Its been good to say "I'm gifted" in confidence, not conceit. Because they are gifts that HE gave me and He wants me to use them boldly for him, forgetting my own perception of if they're good or not.

5) Friendship is hard. Give thanks when its easy

I feel like in the past year my friendships have changed dramatically. I've found myself broken several times by the ways my relationships have shifted. Whether the people needed space from me, whether they got new friends that pushed me to the outer corners, or whether one of us changed and it made the relationship feel different, its been a year of ups and downs.

I've tried to adopt an attitude of "This friendship is not for me, its for them", so that when they do something that is painful for me, I can step back and try to see it another way rather than taking everything so personally.  But, the truth is that some things just suck. Yeah, I know that sounds bleak but, I feel like its realistic in the context of seasons of friendship.

I used to feel like I could fix things all the time, like I knew what was best in all my friendships and if I could just help the other see that what they're doing is straying from the terms of the relationship, maybe things will get better.  In some cases, that has worked over the years but, in others, I've just had to accept that things might never be what they once were.

However, I have been so convicted that I too often miss out on the amazing friendships that are right under my nose.

Even last week, I was bumming out while looking at my instagram feed. I kept seeing this group of friends with one another that I introduced a few years ago, and since then I've felt left out and am constantly wishing I were invited into that mix. I was looking at my feed feeling sorry for myself all the while I was hanging on my couch with one of my dearest friends. So I deleted my instagram and gave thanks for my friggin awesome friend who I was NOT appreciating at that moment.

I'm trying to let go of the need for things to be a certain way in my friendships, and learn to REALLY celebrate those who DO love me and want me around. Also, to know that all relationships have seasons, and when the seasons shift, to trust in the process of things rather than resenting the present reality.

6) Healthily adjust your expectations of your biological family

I think there's a tendency, a necessary tendency, when you're early on in your adulthood (especially if you're in therapy) to resent the ways in which your biological family does not love you like they are supposed to. Everyone has a story. Parents and family members who are alcoholics, workaholics, distant, emotionally unstable, emotionally unavailable, hyper critical, maybe even mentally unwell... Everyone has a story, and those stories are important.

Its important to face the wounds of your childhood and to really recognize the things that weren't right, or as they should have been. Its crucial to face those things and to heal from them. However, its UN-healthy to have the expectation that those relationships will ever be what you idealize. Its just not fair for anyone.

There are a lot of things that I wish members of my family were.  And when I went through a lot of personal healing, there was a period there where I really resented them for not being what I needed as a kid, and even as an adult. But, as I've grown, I've chosen to try to celebrate who they are ( and create really good boundaries with those that aren't so healthy for me).  It might sound cold but, there are ways that ( this is just an example) I am mothered, fathered, and loved like a sibling by people in my life that aren't biologically related to me- and whats more, I've been cared for by God who is a perfect parent.

This has freed me up quite a bit to allow my family to be themselves, and to enjoy who they are rather than always holding them to an unrealistic standard.

7) Present over perfect. Present over perfect.

I've written about this before and I'm sort of obsessed with this concept. I know that I have a lot to learn in this area but, my husband told me that I've grown here, and it feels damn good.

Basically, I've been trying to ask myself in moments of chaos " Would I rather be present, or perfect?" and trying my hardest to choose PRESENT.

There have been several times recently that I've meditated on this concept when we've had guests over and its made things so much more beautiful for me.  I'm finding myself more and more comfortable with imperfection in my own home. If the house isn't spotless, if the meal isn't a 10 out of 10, if there's awkwardness in conversation... I'm trying to breathe and remember that most people aren't looking to be impressed. Most people are looking to feel loved and welcome. I am the most loving and welcoming when I am less concerned with what they think of me and more concerned with how they feel around me.

8) Don't serve fear. It takes more than it promises to give and it will ruin your life.

Really. Fear is my achilles heel. Its that thing that, if unchecked, will creep into every nook of my life and take me out completely.

There are many reasons I am the way that I am but I've realized that it really hasn't gotten me anything good. All of my paranoia has only ever gotten me isolation, fights with my husband, frozen states of anxiety and embarrassing displays of panic that I always regret.

Not only will fear ruin my life if I give it any of my heart or mind, but I am going to have to push through it if I'm going to do ANYTHING I desire to do in life.  Every good thing will kick up fear in me. Everything. Getting close to people, using my gifts, trying new things, traveling, and just about all the other things I dream of doing in my life come with a long list of things that could go wrong.

But again... I don't want to be an old woman who lived an incredibly long story of submitting to fear. "Oh sure, I could have sang some songs in front of people, made some life long friendships, seen the world, had children, who knows!? But, it was all too scary." !? No. I refuse!


All in all, its been a good, rich year. Though there have been many painful moments, I am so deeply thankful for the past few hundred days of life, and look forward to the next one ( by grace).

May I look back on 27 and be more like Jesus than right now. May I look back on 27 and lose track of how many ways I saw these lessons put into practice.

Hope this post finds you well, friends.

Until next time, 

Carly Calmes the First